Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Get Your Chocolate Fix..
and Your Vegetables All In One Bite!

If you have never heard of this combination before...Where have you been? It is pretty popular now, but I remember when it first showed up years ago, everyone thought it was a really strange pairing. That's until they tasted it.

I kind of got a jump start on this recipe. I know by mid-summer there will be zucchini muffins, breads and cakes all over the food blogisphere. I wasn't really trying to beat everyone to the punch, I just had some extra zucchini in the fridge and I somehow thought of these muffins. I have had and made chocolate zucchini muffins in the past but never like these.
This recipe really worked out great. The flavor is very chocolatey and the texture is soft and velvety. Very moist as well, due to the zucchini, of course!

What more could you ask for in a muffin?
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, they're somewhat low-fat too!

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
by Mixed Salad Annie

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/3 cup tub margarine or
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup natural granulated sugar
1/2 cup natural brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tsps. vanilla
3/4 cup fat-free plain yogurt
2 cups grated zucchini
1/3 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray non-stick muffin tin with cooking spray.

Melt the margarine or butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Cream together cocoa butter mixture and sugars in mixing bowl until light and fluffy,
using electric mixer at medium speed. Beat in oil; add yogurt, then
blend in eggs and vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients and blend until just combined. Stir in zucchini and mini chocolate chips with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake 19- 21 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Key Lime Bars

As Easy As Key Lime Pie...
Only Easier!

I have been in a limey mood lately. First I made the Coconut Lime cake for Easter, then I made a boxed mix of lime bars (a sticky mess) and last but certainly not least, these delicious key lime bars.
The original recipe is from America's Test Kitchen (Cooks Illustrated Magazine). It is a really simple, yet elegant bar recipe. I decided, as I usually do, to go low-fat with it. And you really can't tell the difference, I promise. If you like tangy...these bars are for you!!

Seeing that this recipe is made with low-fat cream cheese and fat-free sweetened condensed milk, which are both rich in calcium, I am sending it to Susan at Food Blogga for her Beautiful Bones Osteoporosis Food Event. It is a great event for a very important topic that surely needs more attention and thanks to Susan, we can learn a lot about the causes and prevention and not to mention her fabulous calcium rich recipes. Check it out!

Key Lime Bars

(Reduced-fat, but you'd never know it)

adapted from Cooks Illustrated

5 ounces animal crackers
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar (light or dark)
Pinch table salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 tablespoons margarine, melted and cooled slightly

2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (1/3 less fat), room temperature
1 tablespoon grated lime zest, minced
Pinch table salt
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, either Key lime or regular, about 3-4 limes
Garnish (optional)
3/4 cup natural unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted until golden and crispAdjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Fit an extra-wide heavy-duty piece of foil into bottom and up sides of 8-inch-square baking pan. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

For CRUST: Place animal crackers in a food processor and pulse until broken down and until evenly fine. Add brown sugar and salt; process to combine, (break up any large sugar clumps with your fingers). Drizzle in butter and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press crumbs evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Keep oven on same temperature.

For FILLING: In medium bowl, stir cream cheese, zest, and salt until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk until smooth; whisk in egg yolk. Add lime juice and whisk gently until combined.

TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Pour filling into crust; spread evenly to corners. Bake until set and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least one hour. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.

Lift foil with bars out from baking pan; cut bars into 16 squares. Sprinkle with toasted coconut, if desired.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chicken and Artichoke Pasta Supreme


Did I get your attention? Good, because this is important. It's buttermilk. That's my secret. It is a super ingredient to use in low-fat cooking. I have always used buttermilk in baked goods with great results, and even as a marinade for chicken. But I had never tried using it as part of a sauce until now.
I have to say I was a bit nervous about how it was going to turn out, because I feared that it might curdle or separate. No problems though, it turned out great. The sauce had a nice silky texture and a bit of a tang. Give it a try.

Chicken and Artichoke Pasta Supreme
by Mixed Salad Annie

1 pound chicken boneless skinless chicken breast or breast tenders, cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon chicken seasoning
4 cloves garlic, chopped (divided)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespon extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek, washed, dried and chopped
1/2 pound egg noodles, or your favorite pasta
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons margarine (suggested: Smart Balance Buttery Spread)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
1 cup low-fat sharp Cheddar
1/3 cup grated sharp Pecorino Romano cheese
1 can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and cut into quarters
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Place chicken pieces in a resealable plastic bag and add buttermilk, chicken seasoning, 2 cloves chopped garlic and salt and pepper. Marinate at least 1/2 or overnight in the refrigerator.

Place a pot of water on to boil for noodles.

Remove chicken from buttermilk, reserving 1/2 cup of buttermilk and pat chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Heat a medium pan over medium to medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and chicken and season with salt and pepper. Saute a couple of minutes then add leeks and cook another 3-4 minutes until leeks are tender and chicken is almost cooked through. Remove from pan and reserve.

To boiling pasta water, add kosher salt to season the cooking water and add noodles or pasta. Cook until al dente.

While pasta cooks, re-heat the same pan that the chicken was cooked in over medium heat. Add margarine and melt, then add the remaining 2 cloves of chopped garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Add flour, and whisk together over heat until bubbles form and cook a minute more. Whisk in wine, reduce 30 seconds. Whisk in stock, then reserved 1/2 cup buttermilk. Turn up heat a bit and bring to a boil. Lower heat and add cheeses. Stir until cheese melts into sauce. Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the reserved chicken and leeks, artichokes and simmer another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Drain noodles or pasta. Add to chicken mixture and stir to combine.

Adjust seasonings, transfer to a large serving platter, sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Cake Fit For A Queen!

Queen Mom That Is...

Two of my mom's favorite things are chocolate and pistashio nuts. I remember when I was a little girl, whenever she would bring me and my sister out for ice cream she would always get pistashio or chocolate. One or the other; the other fancy flavors never even tempted her. She knew what she wanted and was satisfied with the simplicity of each flavor on it's own. Although I wonder if she would have been tempted if they had chocolate-pistashio ice cream. I think so. And so I was inspired to make this combination in a cake...just for mom on Mother's Day!

This is a rich, moist and tender chocolate cake, studded with whole pistashio nuts. The middle of the cake is filled with a pistashio cream cheese pudding, that surprises and delights everyone when they see it and taste it. The deliciously rich pistashio butter cream frosting is made with pistashio paste and butter.
*Since pistashio paste is not the easiest thing to find or the most cost effective, you could also frost the cake with chocolate frosting. I've listed both recipes.

Chocolate-Pistashio Surprise Cake
by Mixed Salad Annie

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cup freshly brewed strong black coffee (OR) 2 heaping teaspoons instant coffee in 1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup shelled pistashio nuts, plus more for garnish
Pistashio cream pudding filling, recipe follows
Pistashio butter cream frosting, recipe follows
Creamy chocolate frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lighty butter two 9-inch round baking pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper, then butter and flour them. Shake out the excess flour and set aside.

Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir to combine. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Slowly add the wet mixture while mixing at low speed. Add the hot coffee slowly with the mixer still on low speed. Mix until combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl and then pour batter evenly into prepared pans. Evenly distribute nuts on top of batter in each pan. Gently push nuts into batter with a toothpick.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 25 minutes in pans; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. ******Continue below.

Pistashio Cream Cheese Pudding Filling

1 box instant pistashio pudding mix
1 (8 0unce) package 1/3 less fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 3/4 cups low-fat milk
1 cup boiling water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/8 cup sugar

Line a 9 inch cake pan with plastic wrap, overlapping on all sides. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat pudding mix into the cold milk for 2 minutes with a whisk. Set aside.
In a small bowl mix gelatin and sugar; add boiling water and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.
In another bowl, beat cream cheese and vanilla with a hand mixer until smooth. Slowly beat in 1/2 of the gelatin mixture. Discard the remaining gelatin. Add the reserved pistashio pudding and mix well.
Pour into prepared pan and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.

Pistashio Butter Cream Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
½ cup pistachio nut paste
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 3 tablespoons milk

Cream together the butter and pistachio paste. Alternately add sugar and milk until smooth and creamy. Blend in the vanilla.

(OR an excellent alternative frosting...)Creamy Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup Cocoa
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, until creamy and spreadable. Adding small amounts of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.

Lifting the plasic from the sides of the pan, remove the set pistashio cream pudding filling from the pan. Place 1 layer of cake, flat side up, on a plate or cake stand. Gently and quickly flip over and place the pistashio filling on top of the cake. Remove plastic wrap. With a knife, carefully trim the edges of the filling that overhang the cake. Place the second cake layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the desired frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake. Garish with extra pistashio nuts and melted chocolate if desired.
10 to 12 servings.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Grilled Portobello Pizzas

Yummy and Satifying!

This the quickest and easiest dinner to make when you don't have a lot of time or energy. All you need are some portobello mushrooms, left over cooked chicken, and some basic pantry items. You can even use a stovetop grill. I did!

Grilled Portobello Pizzas

by Mixed Salad Annie

6 large portobello mushrooms, de-stemmed and gills removed
Olive oil, for brushing
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, sliced thin strips
1/3 cup cooked chicken breast, sliced in small thin pieces
1 roma tomato, diced
6 tablespoons store-bought pesto sauce, or homemade (I used my frozen ice cube pesto)
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, shaved with peeled
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

Preheat the grill to high heat. Preheat broiler.

Brush both sides of the mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle both sides of each mushroom with salt and pepper. Place the mushrooms on the grill and grill for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, until soft and tender.

Remove from grill, placing the mushrooms bottom side up on a foil lined baking sheet. Top each mushroom with 1 tablespoon pesto, a few small slices of chicken, shallots, tomatoes and finally the cheese.

Place the mushrooms about 6 inches from broiler and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Remove and place on a serving platter and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately with grilled italian bread.

Friday, May 09, 2008

I found these cute little glass mugs at the Christmas Tree Shops. At only .89 cents each, I just couldn't resist. They make for the perfect modern espresso mug. The only problem is that I don't drink espresso too often since I gave up caffeine.

As soon as I got them home I started thinking it was a stupid impulse buy. And of course it was, but I was determined to figure out what to use them for. So far I have used them in two ways. As shown above, they make a great presentation for pudding. Which by the way, is delicious with trail mix stirred in just before adding to your dessert cup or in my case petite mug.

The dried fruit in the trail mix softens and gives the pudding a great texture and flavor. I used Dr. Oetker organic vanilla pudding mix which is all natural and has no added chemicals or preservatives. I used pacific trail mix which has almonds, raisins, cranberries, pineapple, mango and papaya. I also added 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract to pump up the vanilla flavor.

Second: Perfect for individual servings of shrimp cocktail.
Again it makes a great presentation. I fit four shrimp per mug and filled the mug with tangy cocktail sauce. Cute and YUMMY!

Let me know if you have any more ideas...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Linguine with Shrimp and Lemon Oil

Flavorful and Healthy!!
What a great combination.

I love it when a recipe packs a healthy punch along with a fist full of flavor. Wow. I didn't mean to be so violently graphic, with punches and fists. HAHA. I guess this recipe just brings it out. Maybe its the tangy lemon or the peppery arugula. Whatever it is, you can thank Giada. She came through again with another winner!

Linguine with Shrimp and Lemon Oil
by Giada DiLaurentiis

For the lemon oil:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested

For the pasta:
1 pound linguine pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, diced (I used one choppe leek)
2 garlic cloves, minced
16 ounces frozen shrimp (I used cooked shrimp)
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 lemon, zested
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces arugula (about 3 packed cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the lemon oil:
Combine the olive oil and the lemon zest in a small bowl and reserve.

For the pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots (or leek) and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 5 minutes. (I only heated mine through for about 2 minutes and that may have been too long.) Add the cooked linguine, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Turn off the heat and add the arugula. Using a mesh sieve, strain the lemon zest out of the reserved lemon olive oil and add the oil to the pasta. The zest can be discarded. Add the chopped parsley to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve immediately.